This article by Will Bunch discusses the techniques used by the Polk Award winning Talking Points Memo in its muckraking journalism. Bunch discusses a specific case, when TPM blogger Justin Rood wrote a story in a San Diego newspaper in which a US Attorney was asked to step down for “failing to make smuggling and gun cases a top priority.” Rood was skeptical, so he teamed up with TPM founder Josh Marshall to uncover the truth.
With the growing popularity of the blogosphere, Rood and Marshall reached out to readers for tips on whether other US attorneys had been fired in a similar fashion. The investigation grew and made its way to the senate. After the senate speech, the following occurred:
“Paul Kiel, another TPM blogger, seized on a comment made by Feinstein and produced a bona fide scoop: Republicans had snuck a provision into the supposedly anti-terror USA Patriot Act to bypass the Senate on new U.S. attorney appointments. It seemed suspicious – prosecutors being fired for cracking down on Republican corruption, and provisions being slipped into a bill to bypass a Democrat-controlled Senate confirmation process.”
This investigation began and continued thanks to TPM’s initiative to reach out to readers. What does this mean for the future of investigative reporting?
The open relationship between a blogger and the readers creates a trust that does not exist through the wall of the mainstream reporter-reader relationship. There is commentary and transparency that does not exist elsewhere. The blogger builds credibility through sourcing and a transparent investigative process. The readers, once committed to visiting the blog site, capitalize on this trust by commenting, sharing and assisting the blogger in investigation. It is a mutually beneficial relationship. Both parties have the opportunity to gain and produce information.
It will be interesting to see how bloggers as reporters develop in the future. As news consumers begin to put their trust in the hands of these independent bloggers and out of the hands of the mainstream media, we will likely see a complete change in reporting as we know it. The news environment will convert from a professional-controlled curation of information to a collaboration of humans on the web.